Excerpt, Maple Island

The furniture and boxes were brought over by ferry at ten in the morning. A half hour later the helpers arrived with coffee from the canteen. Cathy gave Paula two plants the would look great on either side outside the door.

With the four of them working, unpacking the kitchen took little time. While they were emptying boxes in the office, Paula tried to decide where to put her new desk. Along the side wall would give her a view of the marina. Out the front window were a few trees where a ducks would waddle through. The boats won over.

Breaking for lunch after getting the dining room table up, Paula made everyone a cheese burger with a side of chips. Brock read one of Paula’s stories while he ate. The three ladies were discussing what to wear to the April Fling, and Bryce was feeding chips to the dog.

“This is good, Paula,” Brock said, before putting a chip in his mouth.

Paula hasn’t let anyone see her work except for her mother. Hearing the complement from a real writer took her by surprise.

“You really think so?” unsure of herself.

Brock passed it to his wife to read, “You have talent.”

Paula  had always kept a dairy, and wrote short stories as a hobby. It wasn’t until she quit her job that Paula wrote more consistently. The one Brock read was her longest one, twelve pages. She thought it was her best work yet, but didn’t think Brock would think it was so good.

The living room was the last to decorate. The white sofa was arranged to face the fire place. It gave the house a cozy feeling that Paula missed living in the apartment. The TV, not that she watched much, went against the side wall. A love seat with glass end tables on either side facing the screen. The recliner went in the corner next to the reading lamp. She could see herself getting lost in a good book for hours sitting there.

It was almost dinner time when they finished, and Wilma offered to take them to the Riverwalk Restaurant.  They went to clean up before meeting at the restaurant in an hour.

The Riverwalk was on the south side of the island overlooking the main channel.  It was half full when Paula arrived. The hostess took her to the table. Cathy was lifting Bryce into booster seat, and Wilma and Brock were looking at their menu

A white tablecloth with caricatures of places on the island covered the table, with a pineapple lamp in the center. The walls were filled with black and white pictures, mostly of the island’s past. A portrait of Wilma and her husband, on the ferry, was over the front door.

A waitress came over with a pitcher of water with five glasses of ice, and a coloring book and crayons. She had jet-black hair pulled up in a ponytail.

“Hi,” she smiled. “I’m Joyce. you ready to order?”

Paula was the last to order. her favorite was on the menu, breaded pork chops. It came with noodles and a choice of applesauce, steamed vegetables or rice. Paula chose the rice. Wilma had the stuffed Pierogies, and the Cey’s shared a basket of wings. Cathy order chicken nuggets and french fries for Bryce.

A barge being pushed by a tugboat up the river came into view through the window. Paula used to love seeing the water get sucked down leaving the wet sand exposed when she was at the beach. She’d hurry up and pile the sand on her legs before the water would come back up.

After dinner they stepped out to the small back porch to free up a table. It was a mild evening for early April. The light from the moon danced with the waves. Joyce brought out some coffee as they sat on lounge chairs around one of the round tables.

Here’s to,” Brock raised his cup. “Life on the island,” they all reach over and clinked glasses.

“And to new beginnings,” Paula added

“Speaking of new beginnings,” Brock stood and leaned against the railing facing the others. “I’ve played with this idea since we decided to live here,” he nodded at his wife. “I would like to try to start a newspaper here on the island. And after reading your story,” he held Paula’s eye. “I think you can be a real asset, if you want to help.”

Paula was stunned, almost speechless, and swallowed the lump in her throat, “You really think my writing is that good? And you want me to help?” she put he cup on the table

“Yes. And yes.” He addressed Wilma, “And maybe you can write about living on the island, and driving the ferry all those years.”

“But I’m not a writer,” she said.

Brock leaned over and set his cup on the table, “Just use your own words.”

“What about you job,” Wilma asked

“He’ll still have that,” Cathy spoke up.

Paula drank her last swallow before asking, “You can do both?”

“Yeah,” Brock said. “I’ve mentioned at work that I might be cutting back to start my own business.” He grabbed Cathy’s hand, “They support my decision.” He pulled her up, “And so does this lady,” pecking her on the cheek.

Paula and Wilma looked at each other, and smiled like they were reading each others mind. Paula was excited and optimistic about her new life. Winning the lottery might have been what she needed to start moving forward.

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